Mike Frisch with big bluegill he caught ice fishing using a heavy jig.

This winter I have added tungsten jigs to my ice fishing arsenal. These tiny baits, while small in size, are heavier than lead jigs of the same size. This is advantageous in several ways. The biggest advantage is that these “heavy” jigs are dynamite fish catchers. In fact, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my best winter of pan fishing for crappies and bluegills coincides with the first winter I’ve used these jigs!

As said, there are several advantages to tungsten. Panfish like crappies and bluegills typically prefer small baits. This is especially true during mid-winter when these fish can get especially finicky. Mini-sized baits have been used at this time for lots of years, though some problems occurred, problems that using tungsten jigs can now help solve.

First, traditional mini baits are so light that they are very hard to “feel” at the line’s end. This causes problems in knowing when a fish hits and when to set the hook. With a tungsten jig, however, I can still use a tiny-sized jig that the fish will hit, but the jig’s extra weight really aids in bite detection.

Another problem with light baits is that they “hang up” in any slush in the fishing hole and they don’t easily penetrate weed cover that crappies and bluegills often call home. The added weight of tungsten gets the jig through the hole slush faster and helps the bait penetrate weeds.

Also, big panfish often appear on sonar in small packs of three or four fish. They hang around for a bit and can often be caught in numbers, provided an angler can get a tiny finesse presentation quickly back down to the fish after catching one. This is one of the tungsten’s biggest advantages in this angler’s opinion. One reason I’m catching more and bigger fish this year is that when they come in, I can catch one, unhook it, and quickly get back down to catch another before the pack moves on.

While tungsten jigs do offer several advantages there are some things to consider when using them. The first consideration is jig selection. These tiny heavy weights sink like a rock to get through slush, penetrate vegetation, and quickly plummet into deep water. Plus they come with premium hooks, are coated with a hi-visibility finish, and feature glow-in-the-dark eyeballs.

I often start with the mid-sized 1/28-ounce Mooska Jig in fushia pink color pattern. If the fish are especially finicky, I have been dropping down to the minuscule 1/57-ounce size. Fushia pink has been a good color, though I have also had good catches on black onyx, emerald green, and gold nugget colors too.

These jigs can be tipped with a variety of offerings. When the fish are aggressive, I have had success tipping with miniature-sized soft plastic baits. The new Impulse® Mayfly soft bait has both iced aggressive crappies and big bluegills. I really like these baits because, well, the fish like them and, because they are durable so I can spend more time catching fish and less time re-baiting when the bite is on.

When the bite has turned especially finicky, tipping with wax worms and euro-larvae has also been an effective way to fish tungsten jigs to ice magnum panfish.

Regardless of what they’re tipped with, tungsten jigs fish best on a durable, yet light line. My choice has quickly become two-pound test size. This line has the invisibility and higher density of a fluorocarbon line along with the manageability of monofilament. These qualities make it virtually invisible to clear water panfish, facilitate quicker drop rates, and allow it to stay manageable even in cold, harsh conditions.

Cold, harsh winter conditions can be made more tolerable when ice fishing is good. One way to make winter pan fishing better is by using tungsten jigs. These mini heavyweights offer several advantages that help put more winter bluegills and crappies on the ice. As always, good luck on the ice!

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